Passionate mum captures heart of rural community
IT STARTED as a hobby, but now it's much more than that.
Photography, to Roma mother-of-two Katrina Ayers, is passion, a source of off-farm income and form of therapy that has helped her work through her mental health battle against anxiety.
Katrina has a knack of getting her subjects to relax and open up in front of the camera, but this week she was in the hot seat, speaking candidly to the Rural Weekly about why she is so passionate about capturing the lives of people within her country community.
Living on a family mixed-enterprise property, TeePee, about 20km outside of Roma, there is never a dull day.
On about 1600 hectares, the family runs beef cattle and does some cropping and hay production when the season permits.
On top of that, Katrina and her husband Andrew run a contract fencing and fabrication business and Katrina also has her photography venture. Keeping all the businesses running smoothly is truly a team effort, Katrina explained.
Her sons, Jake, 16, and Mitch, 8, play their part.
"On weekends our kids help muster, they help brand, they will help us truck cattle and they do tractor driving - whatever needs to be done," she said.
"Mostly Andrew does the work on his own, with the help from the boys and his mum."
Photography was a hobby Katrina stumbled upon from her job working as a property specialist for Elders.
She picked up an interest through work, but it was not until her niece, Teal Ayers, started to climb the ranks within the rodeo circuit that it became a bigger passion.
Teal is currently the APRA junior all round champion - her skills in breakaway roping and determination when barrel racing were something Katrina felt compelled to capture.
"That's how it started, then other competitors started to come up to me and asked if I had taken photos of them," she said.
Katrina quickly became hooked on action photography and started snapping local events - lucky for her, the Roma district is full of competitions.
Andrew and the boys are keen motocross riders so Katrina now volunteers for their local club, taking pictures and driving their social media page.
While there is still a thrill in capturing someone's sporting highlight while in the thick of the action, it's portraiture that Katrina now mostly focusses on.
The bulk of her workload is on-property photo shoots.
Customers had stepped away from studio-style family shots, she said.
"People don't want that studio-type setting that's depersonalised from their lives," she said.
"They want candid images, that depict who they are and where they live and what their lifestyle is."
For Katrina, this often involves long drives to properties and shooting in 45-degree heat, sometimes moving around obstacles like branding furnaces or working with someone's beloved horse, but she just loves it.
"It's all outside in natural light," she said.
"I love heading out to someone's home and capturing them in their own environment, the kids are more comfortable at home.
"I get to meet fabulous families; we have so many great rural families out here."
Recently, Katrina reinvented the popular "cake smash" photo shoot, which was popular for one-year-olds and toddlers, for an older market.
With a bottle of champagne and a tasty cake to destroy, Katrina now takes vibrant photos of gorgeous women celebrating milestones like a 40th birthday.
With lovely rural backdrops and wonderful subjects, there is no place Katrina would rather be than Roma.
However, rural communities sometimes have their downfalls - including adequate resources for mental illness, which is something Katrina would love to change. Next year, she is teaming up with two other photographers to organise a gallery geared at raising awareness for women's mental health. After the birth of her youngest son, Katrina's anxiety "hit its peak" and she suffered severe panic attacks.
"Photography for me is definitely therapy," she said.
"It's been an outlet for me, it's been a way for me to meet people, for me to be social - it's a form of self-expression."
Katrina feels there is far too much pressure on rural mums - and after living through drought a few years ago, while her husband worked away and she worked full-time while still raising two kids, she has felt the pressure herself.
"In rural areas there needs to be more support, more education and more facilities," she said.
The gallery will be opened November 23, 2018.
To see more photos, search "Katrina Ayers Photography" on Facebook.